27 Ordinary Time
Twenty-Seventh Sunday: The First Word in Respect Life.
Today's first reading has a particular impact. "Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord," the prophet Habakkuk cries. He didn't even have CNN & Fox. There are times that we feel overwhelmed by the negatives of our life. Terrorism, unrest among our people, the attacks of the pornography industry on our children, and the continual droning of network news organizations giving breaking alerts of as many horrible stories they can drum up, these and many other negative situations of our lives can lead us to join the prophet in questioning God's presence and control. To Habakkuk and us God says:
"The rash one has no integrity;
but the just one, because of his faith, shall live."
And in the Gospel the Lord says:
"If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you."
We have to have faith that God will set our world straight and that His justice will prevail.
It is in this light that we should view the theme for this Sunday: Respect Life. We do everything we can to promote life, but ultimately we have to have faith that God's way will prevail.
He is winning. Look at the area of Respect Life which is the Right to Life: the area of opposing abortion. It is difficult to get to exact numbers, but there appears to be a continual decrease in abortions since 2012. Still, the latest statistics, from 2015, shows the number of abortions in the US to be 638, 169, a 2 % drop from the previous year. This is still a horrible number of abortions, one being one abortion too many, but at least the number appears to be going in the right direction, down. What has caused the drop? Certainly it is prayer. Regarding other factors, well, we really can't pinpoint them. Perhaps it is the easier availability of birth control. Hopefully, it is the determination of many of the young to live moral lives, and, even more hopefully, much of the drop may be due to a change of heart. As much as we need to work to change the laws in our country, our primary effort should be to change the hearts of people. We have to have faith that God is winning this battle for the babies.
God's victory in Respect Life is also seen in the determination of more and more states to eliminate capital punishment. All life must be respected, including those lives lived in hideous ways. Murderers should not be released into society, but their deaths should not be caused by society either. The Christian cannot be motivated by vengeance.
God's victory in Respect Life is particularly evident in the care we have for those who cannot care for themselves. People who are physically and mentally challenged are cared for by people who recognize the presence of Christ in those who need our help. We have much more work to do, particularly in solving the problem of the mentally ill forced out onto the streets, but we are making strides to respect their lives.
Another area where life is being respected is the area of care for the elderly. God is winning the victory over those who treat the elderly as a burden to society. When we look in on the ailing senior citizen down the street from us, we are respecting life.
An area of Respect Life where we appear to be losing ground in the United States is the area of euthanasia, or assisted suicide. But we have faith that God will also win this battle.
The first word of Respect Life is Respect. Those who exhibit limited respect or no respect for others demonstrate that they have limited or no respect for life. People who continually mock, insult, belittle and even attack those who are different than what they think is the mainstream of society, cannot respect life because they refuse to respect others. Those who are vitriolic in their attacks on others cannot claim to be people of God.
Jesus Christ came to transform the world with love. He did not come to foster hatred. When we fight hatred, we are loving as the Lord loves. When we are determined to fight the battle for life the Lord's way, with love, we are truly respecting life. Respect life begins with respect. We have to remind ourselves that every person is made in the image and likeness of God. Every person has dignity. Every person has a right to be respected, even those people who do not respect us.
This is difficult. We have to work against forces outside of us which do not respect others. We have to work hard against forces within us that reduce individuals to members of a group. At the beginning of the Book of Revelations we come upon the Letters to the Seven Churches. The first letter is written to the people of the Church of Ephesus. They are commended for their fight for the Lord, but they are also chastised. Listen to what the Spirit said to these people in Revelations 2:4-5:
"Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent."
Jesus' love must radiate in all that we do if we really desire to respect life.
For the committed Catholic, respecting life is expected. We are like that servant in the Gospel reading. We put on our aprons and serve our master recognizing that we are simply doing that which we are obligated to
do. We are obligated to lead others to respect life by respecting their lives.